A Servant’s Heart

This is a story of a Filipino couple with profound faith, endless passion and immeasurable devotion. This is the story of a couple with a Servant’s Heart.

Perhaps even before they were born, they were already destined to be in God’s fold and service.

His name, Oscar means God Spear & Gentle Friend and her name, Miriam is known biblically as Moses’ sister who saved his life as a baby by hiding him in a basket at the river’s edge for the Pharoah’s daughter to find.

Popularly known for their resolute devotion to the Sto Niño, they have been in the forefront of the yearly Novena and Fiesta celebration of the Sinulog for 17 years now. They have dedicated years of their lives to bring people together in faith.

In 2010, Cebuano couple Oscar and Miriam Batucan have done us proud when they were each conferred the Benemerenti medals recognizing the work they have done for the Church and the exemplary service they have undertaken for the community.

This is their story – a conversation of inspired insight.

What is the Benemerenti Award?

Oscar: It is a golden medal instituted specially for those who have shown themselves commendable in matters of the Christian faith, giving them the right to wear said decoration. The Holy Father, Benedict XVI, bestowed this award on us and this gives us all the reason to be very honoured to receive it. And we are happy to share this award to the Auckland Filipino Catholics who have supported us through our faith journey.

How are the awardees selected for this award?

Miriam: The award is conferred based on the recommendations and endorsements made by the community, priests, and the Bishop. We are very much blessed and humbled by the outpouring of support, encouragement and prayers that we have received from the Auckland Catholic Filipino communities, the priests and bishops of the Diocese of Auckland, Bishop Patrick Dunn, Devotees of  Señor Sto Niño and the Filipino Communities.

Oscar: We believe that our contribution to the Filipino communities here in Auckland, New Zealand and to the Catholic church in Auckland, which we did to the best of our abilities, and with our strong devotions to the Catholic faith, became the merits for us to receive this award.

How did your journey of faith start in Auckland ?

Miriam: We were one of the couples who have set up the Filipino Catholic Community, the first Filipino Catholic religious group in Auckland way back in year 1990 under the umbrella of the Catholic Diocese of Auckland. We have served as part of the Core Group for almost 8 years before we moved on to another apostolate, that is, the Devotions to the Holy Child Jesus, Señor Sto Niño.

Oscar: Having seen the need for a Catholic chaplain to look after the religious needs of the growing Filipino Catholics in Auckland, we became part of a group which made representation to the Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Patrick Dunn,  requesting for a Filipino priest to be Catholic Chaplain. With the Bishop’s approval, the Mission Society of the Philippines was approached and they subsequently sent Fr Manuel Jadraque Jr to Auckland.  Together with a select group of Filipinos, we were actively involved in the formation of the Auckland Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy and establishment of its Charter. I served the ACFC as Vice-Chairman for 6 consecutive years.  Miriam served as Chairperson of the ACFC Finance Council for 10 years.   We both currently serve as community representatives of the Sto Nino devotees group and the Voice of God Catholic Charismatic Renewal Group in the Auckland Catholic Filipino Chaplaincy Pastoral Council.

What has spurred your faith ? What is keeping the flame alive ?

Miriam: Our strong faith in God, our ardent devotions to Jesus and to the Blessed Mother Mary is what is giving us strength and guidance in our apostolate considering that we have a family of 5 children, 4 of which have a family of their own, and 7 grandchildren.  We both enjoy a happy marriage of 43 years and are working full time.

Oscar: We saw the powerful hand of God in our journey in life together, 43 years of a happy, married life this year, and how he has blessed our family and all our undertakings, especially our Apostolate to Him through our ministry to others.

Why the devotion to the Child Jesus?

Miriam: We come from Cebu, the region in the Philippines which is the centre of devotions to the Holy Infant Jesus, Señor Sto Niño.  We migrated to New Zealand in 1987 and we are both members of the Confradia del Sto Niño in Cebu, very ardent devotees of Señor Santo Niño.  We came together with other devotees in Auckland and became the lead person in starting community celebrations of the devotions to Señor Santo Niño in Auckland since 1994. The first annual celebration gathered approximately 200 people but has grown to approximately 5000 to 6000 attendees each year. Not only do we look after the annual 10-days celebrations, we also organize the weekly novena-masses at St Benedict’s church and organize weekly household prayers in devotion to Senor Santo Niño.

Oscar: We have experienced and give witness to the miracles that Senor Santo Niño has performed in our life, that of our family and that of others.

What are the other church and community  advocacies do you have ?

Miriam: While having ongoing devotions to Senor Sto Nino, I am also involved with the Auckland Catholic Charismatic Renewal for which I have been a member of the Diocesan Service Group for almost five years. Oscar is currently a Filipino representative to the Diocesan Pastoral Council, Diocese of Auckland and a member of the Knights of the Southern Cross. We are also involved in the Marriage Education Team of the Catholic Diocese of Auckland as FOCCUS Facilitators.

Oscar: We have started to organize a weekly gathering for our Mother of Perpetual Help that starts with the rosary and novena prayers. A mass is held every Wednesday at the St. Benedict’s chapel. The prayer group have started with only 10 people and we have grown the numbers to more than 50 attendees. This is the miracle that we witness every day.

Was there a time when you have thought of giving up ?

Miriam: Giving up has never been in our thoughts. We believe that HE is always there for us.

Oscar: Never. HE has always been with us all these years.

What important lessons did this journey of faith lead you to ?

Oscar and Miriam:  Have total faith and trust in God like a little child, not questioning, not doubting and fully surrendering to God’s Holy Will. Nurture your Servant’s heart.